Al Frink reports to work each day at an aging government building in Washington named for Herbert Hoover, the president who is remembered, perhaps unfairly, for dithering while the Great Depression unfolded.
The irony is unavoidable.
Frink is the point man in the Bush administration for manufacturers, including automakers and suppliers.
Even before Frink's arrival in September, the administration was working to address the disappearance of thousands of U.S. manufacturing jobs. In 2003 it drafted a plan called Manufacturing in America. The plan contains 57 recommendations for improving the country's manufacturing base.
Bush also created the position of assistant secretary for manufacturing and services in the Commerce Department. He named Frink, 62, a carpet company executive from California, to fill the post.
Data show that the manufacturing sector started to rebound before the administration completed writing its plan. That aside, Frink says the administration remains committed to the initiative.
"We believe that a lot of the implementations that we have begun have created a positive atmosphere in the manufacturing world," Frink said in an interview.
He counts 27 of the 57 recommendations as having been launched. They include creating his position, getting Congress to change class-action law and negotiating more international trade agreements.
But Frink also acknowledges more needs to be done. Much more.
"We're just picking up steam," he says.
The recommendations fit into six broader policy goals. They include lowering manufacturers' costs, improving the work force and encouraging growth and investments.
Some recommendations and goals mirror positions held by the Bush administration before it developed the manufacturing initiative. Key examples are to make tax relief permanent, improve energy supplies, lower health care costs and reduce frivolous lawsuits. All are all important issues for the auto industry.
Frink insists that the similarities are just a coincidence. The plan's recommendations were developed from comments made by manufacturers, mainly at roundtable meetings held across the United States, he says.
One meeting was devoted to auto suppliers; another was held for automakers.
In addition, Ford Motor Co. COO Jim Padilla was named to the manufacturing council that will advise the administration on how to put the plan into place.
Padilla said the administration's focus on manufacturing provides "a funnel point where we can make our point of views known. And frankly, we've been pleased with the follow-up that we've seen so far."
Padilla noted that government, understandably, moves slowly and that the initiative can't be a cure-all for manufacturers' problems. But some parts provide "glimmers" of hope. He cites the enactment this year of a class-action lawsuit bill as "a necessary step, not sufficient" part of tort reform.
As for the council on which Padilla sits, he said, "We need to avoid being a group of whiners. I think what we need to do is take on substantive issues that will help us be more competitive" globally.
Despite woes in some parts of the industry, Frink says the eagerness of overseas companies to make parts and vehicles in the United States is a sign that the auto business in this country is fundamentally sound.
And for those who are struggling, Frink says, "I feel for them. I think that the auto industry is a very difficult industry."
Upon completion of the Manufacturing in America report at the start of 2004, Jerry Jasinowski, then president of the National Association of Manufacturers, hailed it as a groundbreaking document.
"This is the first time in modern history that an administration has made manufacturing in America a top national priority," Jasinowski said.
But support for the administration plan has been far from universal.
The New York Times in an editorial said that creating the manufacturing czar position was "a ploy to paper over the fact that Mr. Bush's deficit-feeding tax cuts for the wealthy have failed to create the millions of new jobs he promised."
And there were other stumbles.
Bush's first choice for the position, Nebraska businessman Anthony Raimondo, was dropped after word spread that the presidential campaign of Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., was prepared to accuse him of sending some of his company's jobs to China.
More recently, a bipartisan group of senators, led in part by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., announced the formation of a Senate Manufacturing Caucus.
Without mentioning the Bush initiative, Rodham Clinton said, "We cannot afford as a country to sit back while our manufacturing capability slips away."
Frink seems undeterred about the tortured history of his post, and he views the senators' interest as a positive sign.
"I truly believe a lot of that is a byproduct of our raising the level of manufacturing as a sector that needs attention," he says.
As for himself, Frink says he has lived the American dream and feels he was made for his new position.
Frink emigrated from Mexico at age 5. A Small Business Administration loan helped him start Fabrica International, the carpet company he built over 30 years.
He says, "This is my payback, a chance to do something special."